Korea: Foot and Mouth Checkpoints

I’ve stated before that I’m not a journalist, and that I’m not attempting to go on fact finding missions or uncover a scandal. As I started typing that I had a lovely and unexpected conversation with an ex-co-worker from my first hagwon, who actually is a newscaster for her church. I intended to include a link to her broadcast but it’s in Korean and clicking on the link doesn’t change the web address. I’m pleased to see she appears much happier than when I last saw her being ground down by Korean businessmen.
(Heh, this is why I have ‘tangents’ as a tag in my blog, my mind does wander.)

What my current job at a small, rural middle school in South Korea allows me is time to work on my writing and see how decisions from Seoul affect the farmers and people living up near the border with North Korea. Other than the contiguous simmering threat from the North, a far more immediate threat to the people of this agrarian area is the unabated spread of Foot and Mouth Disease.

Ain't no party like a foot n' mouth party!

It seemed to start simply enough with one suspected case found somewhere… well around here actually. It quickly snowballed into an epidemic which continues to spread like a miasma down the peninsula.

To date over 3.3 million heads of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and deer have been killed. Disturbingly they’ve been burying the animals alive, leaving mass graves of livestock to suffocate or smother under Korean soil.

Around here, the military bases send out their troops to guard junctions and occasionally point guns at me.

Why does the road seem to be smoking? (The first checkpoint.)

What more as you can see from these photos is they have set up spray stations along major roads. They first set-up just one right near my school, at least that’s where I first noticed it. Over time it has spread so that there are five or six on my half hour bus ride from Oyu Middle School back to my apartment in Dongducheon. Since before I left for Singapore and Malaysia there have been these checkpoints spewing a foamy white spray in the hopes of containing or curtailing the rampant spread of the disease.

It’s not working.

People pay for this sort of thing in Las Vegas.

But day and night, for over six weeks, these fans have been refilled countless time and people are stationed there, waving red flashlight batons to warn motorists of the impending speed bump and foot and mouth spray.

And it’s been the worst winter in a century or more, certainly the worst winter anyone can remember in Korea. But there they are. Unfailingly attempting to help warn motorists and somehow salvage what’s left of these farmers’ livelihoods.

I only wish all the money and manpower seemed to be doing any good.

Six weeks in sub zero weather. Snowman or disease control. Both?

I have had students miss school due to their farms being quarantined. I’m not sure how much worse this can get. The remaining 13 million heads of cattle and bigs have been inoculated but the second booster shot hasn’t been administered yet. And the disease continues to head south.

I know I don’t have the solution, but it is eerily similar to the outbreak in Great Britain ten years ago. I seem to recall they employed a similar strategy with similar results.


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